Tag: Bible

How to Mark Up Your Bible

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I’ve really tried to love Bible study apps like Youversion but I end up feeling like I’m trying to view the scope of history through a keyhole. Bible study seems to be richer and more effective when I use an old-fashioned paper Bible and mark the pages as I go.

Some people take the process of marking a Bible quite seriously, using particular colors and notations for particular things. I tried that for a while but it got confusing. That said, there are a few tips that might be helpful for your study.

Jeff Cavins gives some tips on type of Bible for study, what kind of pens to use and how to start marking.

Randy Brown gives a bunch of tips on using colors, marking definitions, and starting chain references.

If you want to go full Technicolor, Wes McAdams shares keys on how to color-code your Bible for study.

Was Christ Really Born on Christmas?

Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash

Christ was born on Christmas Day, or so goes the 14th century hymn translated by John Mason Neale. But December 25th hasn’t always been the date when Christ’s birth was celebrated by the church. The questions surrounding the date of Christmas Day are fascinating and involve a great deal more history, tradition and detective work than you might imagine.

Here are a few of the arguments pro and con a December 25 date for Jesus’ birthday:

Philocalian Calendar

The first recorded date for the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 comes from a small book sometimes known as the Chronography of 354. This book lists births and deaths of various bishops and martyrs and as the traditional date for Christmas marked as December 25.

Saturnalia

One popular revisionist take on Christmas is that the holiday was based on the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. This was a harvest festival traditionally celebrated for seven days starting on December 17. The celebration involved festive attire, giving small gifts like dolls and candles, and acts of goodwill such as a landowner paying the rent of poor tenants. While all of this does indeed sound pretty Christmas-y, some historians think Saturnalia was a kind of fringe celebration by the time the Church adopted the December date.

Birth of the Sun God

Saturnalia was bumped from the Roman calendar of festival days by the Mithraic celebration of Sol Invictus. By the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, The Sun God had supplanted the position of Jupiter as the head of the Roman Pantheon. The birth of the Sun God was celebrated on December 25, the date of the winter solstice.

The Roman emperor Constantine was brought up in the Sol traditions and was a worshipper of Sol Invictus . The fact that Constantine eventually became a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire provides some circumstantial evidence behind Sol Invictus as the origin of Christmas.

Shepherd and Their Flocks

The Bible itself seems to give us evidence that December 25 was unlikely to be Christ’s true birthday. Some scholars settle on mid-September for the most likely birthday for Jesus. The argument goes like this:

1) Shepherds would not have been tending their flocks in the fields at night any later than October. Cold winter weather would have required them to move the sheep to pens closer to town.

2) Jesus was born six months after his cousin John the Baptist. It can be determined from the biblical text when John’s father Zechariah served as a priest, roughly from May to June. A little middle-school level math gives you a September-ish date for Christ’s birth.

3) Herod wouldn’t have likely put the census during Chanuka. A known hater of the Hasmoneans, Herod was not a big fan of the Feast of Lights. Some scholars think it more likely that he would have chosen September’s celebration of Sukot for the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Backdating from Jesus Death

There’s an interesting argument that establishes Christ’s birth on December 25 well before the time of Constantine, suggesting that the traditional date was in place before pagan influences put the date on the calendar.

1) Creation of the world. Traditions put the date as March 25, the date of the vernal equinox.

2) Date of Christ’s conception. The traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation (and thereby the date Christ was conceived) is March 25.

3) Date of Christ’s death. While there is also some controversy over the exact date of Christ’s death, the traditional date is March 25.

4) Some traditions believe that prophets tend to die on the exact date that they were conceived. Thus they exit the world at the same time they entered it.

So there we have it, early traditions had a number of ways to establish March 25 as the date Jesus was conceived. Nine months later you get…Christmas Day on December 25.

Conspiracy of Meaning

Until we invent a time machine there is no way to know for certain what calendar date marks the true birth date of Jesus of Nazareth. But all of these theories and speculations provide a lot of food for thought. Follow any of these rabbit trails and you start learning a lot of amazing things about early Church history and the depth of thought of early Church founders.

Redecorating with Jesus

My desk, as with the rest of the office, is a shocking horror

If I’ve harped on this before, someone should hit me over the head with a sack of oranges. I continue to have the feeling that there should be some kind of way to organize my life so that it wouldn’t be such a horrorshow. One central focus that brings everything together. You know what I’m talking about…the notion that it takes big rocks to be effective in life.

In church today Pastor Matt talked about being willing to rearrange our lives to make room for Jesus. Right on. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I want to be able to pick up my Bible first thing in the morning and have the rest of my life flow out of that. Seamlessly. Effortlessly. Yes there would be tough decisions but they would follow Jesus,  a beacon to a better place.

Instead, life seems to be a zero sum game, a series of Sophie’s choices between paying bills, writing a novel or putting away the socks and underwear. Focus on THE ONE IMPORTANT THING first and let everything else go to hell. Problem with this approach is that everything else goes to hell.

The only Scripture passage I’ve found to date that suggests Jesus had any interest in organization is John 20.7. Everything else I’ve Google-up is Productivity Porn (go ahead and click on that, a little taste won’t kill you) with a thin icing of Jesus on top.

So, I still don’t know what to do. I can organize a project like there’s no tomorrow. But I can’t get a rein on my stuff. Sigh.

Here’s what Google coughs up:

Four Biblical Keys to Time Management – Turn your to-do list into a prayer list.

Jesus on Time Management – There is a job only you can do. Do only that. Delegate everything else.

Jesus’ Guide to Time Management – Be ready to drop everything that’s important to you.

Time Management from an Orthodox Perspective – We don’t manage time. Time manages us.

Following God Into the Wilderness

A couple of months ago I decided to read the Bible differently than before. I’ve always tried to wrestle Knowledge or Truth from the Holy Scripture. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not so much.

This time around I’m trying to read more as if I’m having a conversation with God. It’s a subtle difference. But an interesting one.

For instance, I most recently read how the Israelites left Egypt and 430 years of enslavement behind and began a new adventure in the Sinai peninsula. Their response? Ungratefulness. The same sort of whining pit of despair that I all too frequently throw myself into, face first. In Exodus 14:12 the Israelites give words to the way far too many of us live, in our horrible little suburban lives, protected and paved, walled off from the world as God created it – It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!

The thing that makes this passage interesting – startling, really – is the fact that just an hour or two before reading this section of the Bible I was listening to a recording of Edward Abbey reading from his book Desert Solitaire about a search and rescue team and what they found – a corpse in the wilderness. Here’s Abbey’s take:

Looking out on this panorama of light, space, rock and silence I am inclined to congratulate the dead man on his choice of jumping-off place; he had good taste. He had good luck – I envy him the manner of his going: to die alone, on rock under sun at the brink of the unknown, like a wolf, like a great bird, seems to me very good fortune indeed. To die in the open, under the sky, far from insolent interference of doctor and priest, before this desert vastness opening like a window onto eternity – that surely was an overwhelming stroke of rare good luck.

I have no idea on earth what God may be attempting to teach me about this matter. But when it comes to freedom, to slavery, and dying in the desert it seems that God and Mr. Abbey clearly agree. A person could do worse.